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Gist Of Rajya Sabha TV (RSTV): Rising oceans sinking cities

Published: 7th Sep, 2019


Oceans act as a sponge for the ill effects of the climate change by absorbing heat and CO2 generated by greenhouse gas emissions. However these same oceans are likely to unleash their wrath on a global scale. According to a draft report of United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) destructive changes have already been set in motion. The draft report says that even with most optimistic emission reduction scenario, by the year 2050 many low lying megacities and small island nations will experience extreme sea level events every year. Report says that the big four - United States of America, China, India and European Union will face most devastating fall out of the ocean and ice related impacts of climate change. IPCC has meanwhile said that final report will be released in September after a thorough discussion with all stakeholders.

Edited excerpts from the Debate

Question- Is situation serious as depicted in draft?

The kind of problems that we are facing is

  • Glaciers are melting in a very rapid way.400 million tons of ice is melting every year from last 10 years due toincreasing temperature because of whichvolume of water is increasing in large quantities(As temperature rises, volume of water increases).
  • Sea levels have risen by about 20 cms in the past century. A U.N. panel of climate scientists said in 2014 that sea levels could rise by up to about a meter by 2100.
  • Since oceans from last 10 years are facing heat waves, number of cyclones is increasing. (Ocean heat waves are those situations where the surface temperature of the ocean remains above the normal for consecutive 2-5 days) and their number & intensity is increasing.
  • The patterns of rainfall and wind flows are all changing very drastically.
  • Researchers have found that islands in Micronesia have disappeared in recent years with little to no evidence they existed at all. Several Solomon Islands had similar fates in recent decades as they were overtaken by the sea.
  • Many cities & mega cities have low lying areas where poor people largely occupy their critical habitats. Because of sea level rise people are forced to migrate towards hinterland which creates a very serious problem.
  • All the above factors depict a very bleak and a scary picture for the entire globe.

Question–What are the impacts of carbon emissions from big four countries on the global population?

  • According to the projection by the Global Carbon Projectthe top four emitters in 2017, which covered 58 per cent of global emissions, were China (27 per cent), the US (15 per cent), the European Union (10 per cent) and India (7 per cent). Moreover, China’s emissions are now touching the average emissions per capita of the OECD countries.
  • Because of big 4 emissions, it is the small island states which will be the major victims of climate change. For instance,
    • Some countries like Kiribati are expected to get wiped out.
    • Low lying cities like Jakarta haveannounced to shift its capital to high lying regions due to the threat of submergence.
  • As a result of submergence, very large population is going to be evacuated (ecological refugees). This will create political upheaval which will have reverberations around the world.
  • Sea level rise can cause destructive erosion, wetland flooding, aquifer and agricultural soil contamination with salt, and lost habitat for fish, birds, and plants.
  • Higher sea levels are coinciding with more dangerous hurricanes and typhoons that move more slowly and drop more rain, contributing to more powerful storm surges that can strip away everything in their path.

Question - What are major Concerns and challenges ahead?

  • Financial impediments:
    • According to UNEP estimates costs of adaption are extremely uncertain (Hundreds of billions of US Dollar per year).
    • Under the Paris agreement the commitment to finance is 100 billion dollars from developed to developing countries each year but that commitment is not being met by 50-60 billion dollars. So they are not even reaching 100 billion dollars of finance at a point where countries are expecting to increase 10 hundreds of billions of dollars in adaption costs each year.
      • Paris agreements and its rigor that the world is expecting is losing its force due to lack of political will. (U.S. withdrawal from Paris Agreement etc.)
    • Due to U.S.-China trade war, China is opening new coal mines despite severe levels of pollution level to compete with U.S economy.
    • Oceans cover 3/4thof the globe and large number of fisherman & economy is dependent upon ocean.Governments are not ready to face the challenge that has been poured by this rising tide of the ocean and the ocean line.
    • There is hardly any sufficient preparation by any country around the world to tackle the challenges of climate change. For example, in the case of Manahatton (U.S.A), the technocrats are giving a false hope that they will build a wall to counter the rise in sea level. But even one meter rise will simply wash off large portions of the city. Therefore seriousness of this need to be understood in a proper manner.
    • SDG’S will be difficult to achieve by 2030 if this kind of situation is going to prevail.
    • The first Kyoto protocol phase between 2005 and 2012 has given targets of reducing emissions by industrialized countries by five percent but that never became a reality.
    • If the countries continue to avoid there environmental commitments, the required global targets will not be met and the increase in temperature might go up to as high as three degree (Paris agreement restricts up to 2o C).
    • No government in the world has assessed the scale of migration due to climate change and is neither prepared to tackle a problem of this kind.

Question - What do we need to do from here onwards to at least go ahead and bring down the level of threat?

  • Climate change issues have largely arrested our attention to the emission alone, without bothering about the implication that it has on other systems.From tragedies like, Brazil (Fire in Amazon forest), Belavia, Australia, Canada we must reckon that there is a close relationship between water, land and the Cryosphere. This relationship has not been adequatelyaddressed or appreciated globally by the governments.
  • As countries like China have reduced their carbon emission peak target from 2030 to 2025 due to recent increase in flooding events. Other countries should also revise their targets accordingly.
  • As oceans are going to rise whether increase in global temperature is restricted to 1.5 degree Celsius or 2 degree Celsius it is time for us to prepare that how do we take care of the migrating population.
  • As IPCC report clears that the costs of threats are not limited to developing countries but to developed nations like U.S.A. So it can push political action in future.

Question – What India should do more to control ill effects of climate change?

Our country is doing well in promoting non fossil fuels and we have already exceeded the target set for us and hence we are now raising the target.But there are certain areas where we can do better:

  • Development Programme:
  • Since the automobile industry is a major contributor to Greenhouse gas emissions, more emphasis should be given to promote E-vehicles.
  • Since the large number of private vehicles is leading to severe pollution levels, the government should take measures to establish a robust public transport system.
  • We need to see more of a diplomatic effort to make sure that the action taken in India should match abroad. E.g. International solar alliance.
  • India needs to act as a role model for other countries through its own actions like International Solar Alliance so that they also take measures to replace fossil fuels with renewable sources of energy.

Way forward:

  • Because of the warming, changes in chemistry, pollution, oil spills the oceans have been very badly abused everywhere both in the developing coast as well as the coast of the developing countries and therefore this situation is so complex that it is not a question of maintaining the pledge that we have made in Paris. But we have to be very aggressive to come up with more aggressive cuts & resolve. And at a much shorter period of time a very dramatic change has to be there in our system of thinking and is to percolatethrough the society and should be taken care of by all governments on a war footing.
  • The facts put by IPCC draft clearly point out the amount and the range of threat there are to mankind, to humanity not only from one nation but all of us. So all of us-individuals, societies and nations will have to come together and find a solution and act now.

Question: What are the socio economic impacts of the rising oceans on the low lying countries of the world? What do we need to do to bring down the level of this environmental threat?

Verifying, please be patient.

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